Spontaneous Cycle Touring (And Advice For Educational Welfare Officers)

I was always planning to cycle to Skipton this weekend – I have lined up an exclusive* interview for The Cycling Europe Podcast with one of the unsung heroes of cycling touring and we are meeting at the local Morrison’s at 10am tomorrow (apparently it’s half price for Cycling UK members…) – but it was only a passing thought a few weeks ago when I arranged the chat that I might cycle up to Skipton from my home near Halifax and camp overnight. At the gym this morning I thought about it again. When I got home in the early afternoon I thought about it yet again. At 1:15pm I made the decision to do it, by 2pm I had packed the pannier – just the one – and left the house and just after 2:30pm I was on the train from Halifax to Bradford. (I wanted to avoid the hill but that didn’t quite work – see below.)

* probably…

I’m not one for lists. I prefer photos like this:

The kit I assembled for my recent trip to the Outer Hebrides

But this one shouldn’t take me long to write as it is the list of kit I packed earlier today:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping liner
  • Camping mat
  • Basic toiletries
  • Towel
  • Outdoor mat for sitting on
  • Battery pack
  • Audio recorder & handle (for podcast)
  • Book to read
  • Mug for wine
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Lycra shorts
  • Raincoat

That’s basically it. Obviously I haven’t listed the clothes I’m standing (well, lounging horizontally in the tent) in as well and stuff like keys that I take with me whenever I leave the house anyway. It was very liberating to stuff everything in one large pannier and set off, in under an hour. It took weeks of planning and procrastination to get everything ready for heading off to Scotland in August. OK. The Outer Hebrides are one of the more distant corners of these disunited isles and Skipton is only 40km from home. Plus I was planning to be away for two weeks for the Hebridean Way adventure and this is just one night but still, it does make you reflect upon the time we spend, well, reflecting on cycling rather than cracking on and actually doing it. Then again, all that planning and procrastination is quite a lot of fun…

As for today’s ride… I took the train from Halifax to Bradford as I wanted to avoid the hill between the two (either at the Halifax end of the Calder Valley or at the Hebden Bride end over Oxenhope Moor) expecting to cycle along the valley in the direction of Skipton but Komoot – that I used for only the second time today – sent me over the next set of hills in the direction of Ilkley and then Addingham. Despite the somewhat unfriendly motorists racing to the Cow & Calf on Ilkey Moor is was a rather nice, if more challenging than expected, ride. Towards the end, after realising that my route on the eastern side of the River Wharfe wouldn’t take me past the Coop in Addingham as planned, I had to haul poor Wanda up a short flight of stairs at the far side of a pretty (and alarmingly bouncy) footbridge but small price to pay for not going hungry this evening. The full benefit of only having that one pannier on the bike didn’t escape me…

I was expecting Catgill Campsite near Bolton Abbey to be quiet to the point of looking abandoned. Far from it! It’s even more busy tonight than when I last visited in the summer of 2020. I dare say the educational welfare officers of West Yorkshire would have a very productive visit if they chose to come here today and cross reference the children who were absent from school last week with those running around on the campsite…

Moral of the day: planning is enjoyable but doing stuff on a whim can be equally fun…

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1 reply »

  1. I started doing a bit of bike packing a few years ago. Mostly on bridleways in the Yorkshire Dales, Lake District or Forest of Bowland. In general I head out from where I live (near Kendal) with minimal kit and very often no idea where I’m going. Making it up as I go along works for me, but some trips need a plan.

What do you think?